Termites are by nature of socially organized insects from Isoptera order. Their way of life resembles wasps’, bees’, and ants’ lifestyles. However, their biology is much closer to cockroaches. Though…

Types of Termites, What do Termites Look Like, Pictures and Photos

Termites are by nature of socially organized insects from Isoptera order. Their way of life resembles wasps’, bees’, and ants’ lifestyles. However, their biology is much closer to cockroaches. Though being variable, only few types of termites have the largest dispersal in the USA. What do termites look like?

Typical Features of Termites

There are cardinal traits that none but termites own. We speak about a three-part carcass, which comprises a head, a thorax, and an abdomen. Termites move rather slowly using three pairs of limbs and communicate with each other and the environment aided by antennae, the organ, which often substitute eyes.

All termites possess a unique digestive system, which is capable of working through the hardest part of wood, cellulose.

Termites’ huge nests in the wild are considered as works of art. And the creatures should be called beneficial, because they feed on decayed timber, returning nutrients to the soil, and ending the natural circulation system. Neighborhood with humans leads to hazardous consequences to man-built wooden constructions. The damage, resulting from their activity inside the structural wood is estimated of up to $7 billion every year. Termites’ elimination is a very hard challenge but possible if you’re fully armored with the data about the pests’ appearance.

Termites that have a great impact on humans’ property. They can be of three main types:

  • subterranean and Formosan;
  • drywood.

Termites’ huge nests in the wild are considered as works of art.

Subterranean Type of Termites

Subterranean termites lead to even greater damages to houses and other wooden constructions as compared with any other types. These underground pests are the hungriest and the most stubborn in searching for food among all their siblings. This type isn’t homogeneous. There is so called cast system in the colony, which includes: workers (80-90%); warriors (5-10%); a king with a queen; alates or young reproductives (10-15%).

Subterranean Worker Cast

Workers represent frequently observed termites than any others. They perform a range of tasks to serve the entire colony: taking care of a royal family and larvae; feeding of other representatives of other casts; searching for food; repairing tunnels and entries. They are exclusive species, which actually destruct wood, digest it and then pass it to soldiers, larvae, and reproductives. Subterranean workers stay in this cast for all their life. Sexually they are divided into males and females. But they can’t give the offspring.

Worker termites are the smallest of all (about ¼-3/8 inch). They are absolutely eyeless and have a soft and tender body of white or yellowish-white hues, which is very sensible to aggressive environmental conditions (sun and frost). Mainly for this reason, the termites are never seen out of their shelters. They dwell soil full of moisture. In case their object of forage is far from a direct availability, they construct mud tubes to reach it.

worker termites

Worker termites are the smallest of all.

What do Termites Look Like: Subterranean Soldier Cast

Soldiers or warriors are the next to appear in a termite big family. Their main role is to put their life in battles with enemies. The warriors are a bit larger than common workers, and have a darker coloration. But the most outstanding parts are mandibles (claws), placed on a big head. The soldiers are blind, but when they feel a hazard, they bump with their huge mouthparts against the ground, calling for help. While soldiers fight with invaders outside the nest, workers quickly and carefully repair the holes. Thus, even in the case of victory, survived soldiers will never return back and will become a prey to predators.

When the situation is calm, soldiers’ tasks are limited to controlling over workers. The warriors can’t chew lumber. Instead, they touch workers with their mouthparts meaning they are hungry.

termite soldiers

Soldiers or warriors are the next to appear in a termite big family.

Subterranean Reproductive Cast

After approximately 5 years of creating a termite nest, there are first reproductive species to appear. Their main aim is to find other suitable places for starting a new colony. What do termites look like? The representatives own darker abdomen with even dark-brown or coal-black hues. They are the only who possess wings. After becoming mature, young species leave the parental nest. This event occurs once in their life and is called a nuptial flight. It usually begins in late spring and early summer. Landing on the earth, the reproductives (alates) drop their wings and open tandem running. Having found a good place, a male, and a female first dig out a hole, then mate, take care of first eggs. Even after long years of colony existence, the king remains the same size (slightly bigger than a tiny worker). Its only duty is to inseminate the queen. The pair lives in a special chamber of the nest and requires proper care from workers.

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Queen produces eggs. With time its abdomen enlarges tremendously. Queens don’t move and they uninterruptedly provide the colony with new members. They also produce special ferments, which are licked by workers and therefore unite the big termite family.

When queens become rather old, they give birth to more reproductives than usual. These alates sometimes don’t fly away. Instead, they stay inside the nest and start satellite colonies. They are called secondary reproductives.

reproductive flying termites

Their main aim is to find other suitable places for starting a new colony.

Formosan Termites

A variety of subterranean termites is incredible. But one species demands greater attention. Formosan termites come from Hawaii. Since the middle of the XX century due to human factor this type of termites started to inhabit the USA. They mostly inhabit Florida but have moderate occurrence in neighboring states. Their significant features are aggressiveness and hunger. Also, Formosan termites aren’t tied to soil condition and may infest even house walls, which is untypical for common subterranean species.

Drywood Type of Termites

Drywood termites are running next in the wood infesting intensity. But it shouldn’t decrease their role in wood destruction. It is often much serious than that of subterraneans’.

The termites always dwell in sound, dry wood and don’t demand much moisture. They never touch the soil.

Dry wood termites’ colonies grow very slowly, counting only from 1000 to 5000 members. Homeowners often identify the unwanted pests only after 10-15 years of infestation in the process of repairing their houses, when most wooden parts and furniture are eaten out from inside.

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Drywood termites distribute mainly in Pacific regions with no frost seasons. While subterranean termites inhabit man-made constructions from a bottom line, drywood species tend to settle much higher in door and window frames, furniture and attics.

Drywood termite colonies are also divided into casts, which are typical for all termites. But there are peculiarities.

drywood termite

Drywood termite colonies are also divided into casts.

Drywood Worker Cast

So, workers do not perform their serving duties during all their life but only until they are mature. After a year any worker species may become a soldier or even an alate. Some scientists call this cast false workers. They are measured at ¼-3/8 inch. Pest specialists can easily determine dry wood termites from the style in which worker species raven on wood. They perform it both along and across the grains. Subterranean termites eat it out only in longitudinal direction.

Workers are usually larger in size than subterranean species.

Drywood Soldier Cast

Soldiers are 5/16 inch in their body length. They also have distinctions between other casts. First of all, their heads are rectangular and dark-colored, having the characteristic features of so-called burnt match. Their massive mouthparts also serve as defensive tools against predators, but possess “teeth”. Soldiers take advantage of their large head to close entry holes in case of other insects’ attack.

Western dry wood soldiers have white spots in the places where there are eyes in some species, have more rounded head and club-like parts on their antennae. Another species from light western dry wood termites own also club-like segments, which have, practically, the same length as other parts of their antennae. Pronotum (a segment that connects a head and a thorax) is as wide as the head.

drywood termites

Soldiers are 5/16 inch in their body length.

Drywood Reproductive Cast

Reproductives are usually inch, have eyes and mouthparts to chew wood. Young developed termites own prolong wings, which only help them planning through the wind, but not flying. Nevertheless, some young species can appear rather far from their starting nest. The distinctive feature of dry wood alates that differentiates them from subterranean siblings is wings with three veins, while subterranean species have only two. After a nuptial flight, all dry wood alates drop wings. Many of them are often found dead and wingless. As for subterranean termites, their youth often dies during the flight, but not all of them succeed to shed wings. Some are still winged.

Dampwood Type of Termites

They range third in their damage to humans’ constructions. These species like to dwell in high-moisture or rotted wood intending to flatten it with the soil. They inhabit mostly Pacific Northwest. At the same time, Zootermopsis nevadenses occurs in less moisture containing places.

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Like other siblings, damp wood termites’ nest consists of several members: warriors, alates, and nymphs. The 3/4 inch warriors are the longest termites along with a huge head and strong mouthparts (jaws).

Taking care, feeding, foraging and repairing duties are performed by nymphs. They are ½ inch. After reaching maturity age, those false workers become alates, which are the only individuals among all termite species who has hairs on their wings. The size of young species can be up to 1 inch in their length.

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